Donald Trump's hate-filled politics are a threat to democracy that Scotland must beware – Scotsman comment
In her speech following victory in the Maine senate election, Republican Susan Collins warmly thanked her Democratic opponent for calling to concede and spoke of the “extraordinary honour” of having the opportunity “to serve all of Maine for the next six years”.
From the way she spoke, it was clear she respected a political opponent who came close to beating her and that she wanted to reassure all the state’s citizens, Republicans and Democrats alike, that she would do her best to represent them.
The contrast with Donald Trump, who she refused to endorse, could not have been more stark.
The US President repeatedly characterised his political opponents, even a well-known centrist Democrat like Joe Biden, as being in thrall to the “radical left” and ranted about the supposed dangers of anti-fascist protesters known as Antifa, while his lawyer and key ally Rudy Giuliani claimed the Black Lives Matter movement was a “domestic terror group”. So when Trump told the far-right militia group the Proud Boys to “stand by”, they snapped to attention, ready to carry out their “duty”.
He appears to have talked up the risk of civil disorder in the hope that this would frighten Americans into the arms of a ‘strongman’ like him, an age-old strategy of wannabe autocrats.
The threat of violence was much more than an undertone of the Republican President’s campaign for re-election and it remains a possibility, given his baseless claims that the election was somehow rigged against him. Mitt Romney, a Republican who ran for President in 2012, warned that Trump’s post-election rhetoric "recklessly inflames destructive and dangerous passions".
Vigorous debate and robust language are all part and parcel of a vibrant democracy and those who seek elected office need to be resilient enough to stand up for themselves.
However, in a world where democracy itself is in retreat, it is more important than ever to maintain a degree of respect and consideration for all those who subscribe to it.
If we do not, if we succumb to the idea that our political opponents are the devil incarnate, then there is a risk of violence and, ultimately, the end of democracy.
We in Scotland are not immune to the “dangerous passions” that Romney fears.
Politicians of all parties have spoken of their concern at the rising levels of aggressive hostility from supporters of other parties. For example, John McLellan, a former editor of this paper and a Conservative councillor, was recently called “scum of the Earth” when out canvassing ahead of an Edinburgh council by-election. The level of vitriol during the 2014 independence referendum was also profoundly shocking to many.
As a recent poll for the Politico website showed, the vast majority of people in Scotland and the UK would not have voted for Trump. Not a single constituency would have elected him, with East Dunbartonshire registering the highest level of support for Biden at more than 85 per cent, followed by Edinburgh South on just under 84 per cent.
Trump is, thank goodness, extremely unpopular. So however passionately we feel, when we get involved in our own political debates we should do our best to emulate moderates such as Susan Collins or Joe Biden and avoid finding ourselves apeing the vitriolic, hate-filled liar Donald Trump.
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